“To avoid the confrontation with death is a refusal to live life to its fullest.” Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete goes on to say, in his article, Humanae Mortis, that the link between love and life is sacrifice and that the only way for man to gain his life is to lose it, to give it up, to sacrifice it. Indeed, the ultimate sacrifice is at the hour of death in which each person is called to freely give his or her life back to God.
Yet, during life, God gives every person many opportunities for sacrifices and acts of self-denial as a kind of preparation for the hour of death. And it is the office of the Mother of God that the link between our love and our sacrifices be brought together as closely as possible for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Pope St. Pius said of her: “Hers was the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time presenting Him for the sacrifice.” Just as Christ offered himself through a ritual at the Last Supper before he personally offered his life on the Cross, the Blessed Virgin too offered her Son through a ritual at his Presentation in the Temple before she personally offered him up at the foot of the Cross. But sometimes we forget that she hastened the hour of our Lord’s death when she asked Jesus to perform a miracle at the wedding of Cana. When she informed him that the host ran out of wine, our Lord, curiously enough, referred to the hour of his death; that it had not yet arrived. He seemed to be suggesting that her request would inevitably trigger the process that would lead to that hour. Yet, Mary asked the servants at the wedding to “do whatever he tells you.” In other words, she was preparing the Lamb for the Sacrifice by creating the opportunity for his first public miracle! That miracle would get the ball rolling, so to speak.
Is it any wonder, then, that she will do the same for her saints? At each Mass we are called to offer our love and sacrifices at the altar. And how efficacious will these sacrifices be if we offer them with the Blessed Virgin for the conversion of sinners. This ritual offering that we make on behalf of ourselves and others will undoubtedly prepare us for the hour of our death, the very hour we utter in every Hail Mary we pray.
In fact, in 1859, when Our Lady appeared to Sr. Adele Brice in Wisconsin, she instructed her to do precisely this. She said, “You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.” And as for trials of life, fifty eight years later in Fatima, she made a similar request: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings that he may choose to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and as a supplication for the conversion of sinners?”
This, in my opinion, should be at the center of every parish program. Most of us are aware of the declining numbers at parishes throughout the country. It could even be said that the Catholic Church in the West is growing old. Daily Mass, quite often, is attended by people who are 50-60 years of age and older. Younger generations are cohabitating more and marrying less. So why not take what the Blessed Virgin has asked of us and make it the centerpiece of the New Evangelization? And if her messages are not persuasive enough, let us look to the Saints who were especially devoted to her. They will tell us that sacrifice and death – especially in Mary’s hands – are God’s chosen instruments for resurrection.
St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximillian Kolbe are arguably the best known Marian Saints. Both write at length about Mary’s role (along with her Spouse, the Holy Spirit) in conforming each of her sons and daughters to the image of Christ. According to both of these Saints, inviting the Mother of God to have her way with us is the shortcut to glory. But in getting us there, she prunes us and purifies us. In other words, she helps each disciple to gain his life by losing it, by giving it up, and by sacrificing it. As St. Louis de Montfort said,
“If we do not die to self and if our holiest devotions do not lead us to this necessary and fruitful death, we shall not bear fruit of any worth and our devotions will cease to be profitable… we must choose among all the devotions to the Blessed Virgin the one which will lead us more surely to this dying to self. This devotion will be the best and the most sanctifying for us.”
Practically speaking, St. Maximillian told his Franciscans that they should find ways to deny themselves two or three times a day. Offering up little things is quite beneficial, like not jesting with a friend when we are tempted to do so or not eating that extra piece of chicken at dinner. And what is even more important than these little offerings throughout the day is to accept the crosses that Lord gives us. And even with this, the Blessed Virgin will help us. He said,
“The Lord Jesus does not expect us to walk exactly the same way He did. But He demands that we bear the cross of our duties daily and make sacrifices of our will. If, however, we find even these things difficult, let us go to the Immaculata and pray for help. She surely will not refuse us. This life demands sacrifices of us.”
Yes. Life demands sacrifices of us. But for many, such sacrifices go to waste. Too often, they are not used for spiritual sacrifices and neither are they used to prepare for the greatest sacrifice of all, the hour of death. So, let us pray that, to use the words of St. Pius X, she will tend and nourish her little victims and at the appointed time present them for the sacrifice. By allowing her to hasten our hour, more Saints will be made and more souls will be saved. This, no doubt, is what the Church and society desperately needs.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.